“With a heavy heart, Holden announced today that General Motors will be retiring the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand. This announcement will be felt deeply by the entire Holden family, our customers and our fans,” so said Holden’s press office on that fateful day in late February. After more than a century of car production and in excess of 7.6 million sales, Australia’s longest lasting automotive brand will no longer exist come the end of 2020. It’s immensely sad for all concerned.
How grateful we are, then, that some of Holden’s best creations made it to Britain. Re-badged as a Vauxhall, the HSV-developed Monaro remains one of the most exciting V8 machines to have been sold here from any car maker. The Monaro somehow managed to meld a muscle car look with a demonstrably Aussie package to succeed where so many American-made equivalents failed. It felt at home in Britain.
Part of the achievement is unquestionably down to the challenging job of engineering a car for the Australian landscape. The story of the Monaro is a fitting one; at the end of the nineties, excited by the prospect of a Monaro for the first time in two decades, GM sent over its shiny new platform for the locally adapted model to be based on. But, lo and behold, it quickly fell to pieces during testing on the treacherous surfaces of the outback. To ensure it worked, Holden’s engineers had to make some pretty significant structural alternations, making it bespoke to the Monaro.
The result handled Britain’s greasy, bumpy surfaces rather well. Nobody has ever been fooled by the Vauxhall badge - the Monaro is an Australian car through and through and that’s never clearer than in the way it goes about business. Back in the noughties, seemingly the entire motoring media was in awe of the Holden’s genuine dynamism and finesse, a worthy addition to a burgeoning coupe market despite its extra weight over rivals. But discovering those dynamic fruits did, of course, require the addition of a few hairs on your chest…
Much of the Monaro’s lairiness is in debt to GM's V8. In the old top model, badged as the Monaro VXR in Britain, the LS2 motor is 300cc bigger than the LS1 eight-cylinder in the entry car, producing 404hp at 6,000rpm and 391lb ft of torque 1,600rpm before that. The top model’s entire setup was honed to suit the unit; even the fuel tank needed to be moved rearwards, impeding on boot space, to make it work. But the result is a car that’s beefy yet intuitive to drive quickly.
The greatest barriers to entry for a Brit after a Monaro are almost entirely linked to running costs. The 6.0-litre is as thirsty as an estuary when you open its taps and, thanks to the emission of 384g/km of CO2, you’ll need to hand over £580 a year in road tax for this 56-plate example. Ouch. But, in truth, those tax bills are the same for an E46 BMW M3, so you might argue that this is less of a case of the VXR being adversely affected by regulation and more a reflection of just how much greenhouse gas came out of the back of fast cars not so long ago.
But who’re we kidding? Anyone expecting to run a V8-powered Aussie coupe on the cheap, however durable they’re meant to be, is in for a shock; it’s a job for committed enthusiasts only. The sort who may be motivated to buy in now that the Holden brand is to retire for good. Handily, there are always a few Vauxhall-badged Monaros knocking around on the classifieds, and today’s Spotted just so happens to be the 6.0-litre big daddy we’ve been talking about.
This 68,000-mile-old car looks decent from what we can see, with the seller describing its service history as “excellent”, illustrated by regular intervals on the log book. It’s the only 6.0-litre Monaro on PH and, as such, the seller wants £13k – more than double what the other two Monaros presently listed are going for. But look at it this way: for anyone after an authentic muscle car experience, Antipodean or otherwise, there are very few alternatives which can claim to deliver the same quantity of charm for entry-level supermini money.
SPECIFICATION - VAUXHALL MONARO VXR
Engine: 5,967cc, V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 404@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 391@4,400rpm
MPG: 18 (with helium shoes)
First registered: 2006
Recorded mileage: 68,000
Price new: c. £36,000
Yours for: £12,995
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